coaching

The Benefits of Being a School Governor

I have talked a lot about being a School Governor – normally a sign with me that I’m passionate and engaged about something (although I can talk about most things for some time!). Having stepped down as chair of Governors and resigned from the Governing Body at the end of last term, I thought I would use my summer blog to reflect on what the role has meant for me.

Being a School Governor is often seen as a ‘nominal’ role, taken on by well-meaning members of the community to showcase their community spirit. What many people don’t realise is just what being a School Governor entails; it’s hard work, especially when you are trying to improve a school (I went on a journey from Ofsted judgements of Satisfactory, Requires Improvement and then two Goods).

School Governors have a challenging role. Did you know that they are officially responsible (as a Corporate Board) for:

  • Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent
  • Holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils
  • Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction

As Chair, your role is to lead the Governing Body team to ensure that these things happen (and to manage the enthusiastic board members who want to sort out parking issues, deal with specific teaching concerns etc, all well-intentioned but not the role of a GB).

For me, the role provided a great supplement to my working life, especially as I was building my business. It gave me a chance to:

  1. Flex my leadership ‘muscle’; having been in management positions for a number of years, when I left my last employment in 2011 I was no longer using the skills I’d acquired as a leader / manager. Becoming Chair gave me the chance to keep these skills alive.
  2. Be part of a team; as a one-man band business I got lonely but being part of ‘Team GB’ as well as the wider leadership team in school – I was lucky to have a great working relationship with our Head and Deputy – fulfilled that need in me.
  3. I observed at close hand, and I hope played a small part as coach, champion and sounding board, in the school’s transformation journey. As a parent throughout most of my time in the role this benefited my children but also the wider school community.
  4. The role gave me a chance to give back to the wider community in which I live. Something that I hadn’t foreseen when I took on the role was how rewarding and fulfilling that would be; the school I was in took children from a very wide range of backgrounds and circumstances and being able to play a part in ensuring that these families and their children got the best opportunities and start in life was particularly satisfying to be a part of.

So would I recommend the role? YES if you have spare time and some experience that can benefit the school; this can be in a wide range of skills. If you’re not sure what you may have to offer, speak to the local school – you’d be surprised at what they require and how much they may need you!

coaching

What happens in a coaching session?

Building on my June blog where I explored “How Does Coaching Work?” this month I want to look more closely at what happens in a coaching session or meeting. I usually recommend 90 minutes for a coaching meeting; one hour feels like not enough to get under the skin of the issue, but two hours can be too much. The client should be thinking hard throughout the session and many find the process tiring after a while.

So, beyond active listening, powerful questioning and the other ICF Core Competencies, what goes on in a coaching meeting? I like to think that what is at play are what Nancy Kline (www.timetothink.com) describes as the Ten Components of a Thinking Environment (copyright Nancy Kline, 2010) which are:

1. ATTENTION – Listening with palpable respect and without interruption

2. EQUALITY – Treating each other as thinking peers – Giving equal turns and attention – Keeping agreements and boundaries

3. EASE – Offering freedom from internal rush or urgency

4. APPRECIATION – Offering genuine acknowledgement of a person’s qualities – Practicing a 5:1 ratio of appreciation to criticism

5. ENCOURAGEMENT – Giving courage to go to the cutting edge of ideas by moving beyond internal competition

6. FEELINGS – Allowing sufficient emotional release to restore thinking

7. INFORMATION – Supplying the facts – Dismantling denial

8. DIVERSITY – Welcoming divergent thinking and diverse group identities

9. INCISIVE QUESTIONS – Removing assumptions that limit our ability to think for ourselves clearly and creatively

10. PLACE – Creating a physical environment that says back to people, “You matter”.

Nancy Kline has identified that these elements are key to helping someone to think better, saying that “Everything we do begins with thinking. If our thinking is good, our decisions are good, our actions are good, our outcomes are good.”

When you look through the Ten Components, I’d encourage you to ask yourself, when did someone last give me the space for all of these elements? When was I encouraged and appreciated, and asked to express my true feelings? But equally when was I asked Incisive Questions which made me question what is and why?

For me coaching is about all of these factors, and the role of a coach is to create a space which enables these to happen. I have recently become part of a Bird Table Coaching group, which subscribes to the Nancy Kline approach and I truly value the opportunity that these sessions give me to work within a group where I feel safe yet challenged to explore questions I have about my business and my practice (not just fellow coaches, in the group is a Pilates Teacher and Will Writer, amongst others). So, if you’ve been wondering what happens in a coaching session, why not give one a try? After all, what have you got to lose (other than possibly 90 minutes of your life!) but you really could have everything to gain…

coaching

How does coaching work?

Coaching - helping the client develop and move towards achievement of their goals

Coaching is a client led activity – this means that the coach is led by the needs of the client; what would they like to achieve from the coaching? What is challenging for them at this moment? What about the next time they meet? And what does their organisation want them to achieve and how can we do this together?

Sometimes coaching can be seen as a nice chat, but that’s far from the truth! There are coaching models, GROW the most well-known, there are tools to help move thinking forward and the role of the coach is very much that of facilitator; the coach helps the client develop and move towards achievement of their goals.

For me there are three stages to a successful coaching relationship;

  1. Building awareness; a key ingredient of coaching is the development of awareness. This can be self-awareness, where the coachee gets to understand themselves better and realise the impact that they have on those around them (not always negative impacts, many people don’t’ realise how much they are valued and appreciated and what for). This can also be awareness of what’s happening; what is it about your time management that doesn’t work for you? What is happening in the moments when you feel stressed out in work, rather than coping with everything that’s thrown at you. Often developing this awareness is when the ‘light bulb’ moments of coaching occur.

  2. Understanding; once you can identify what’s happening, coaching can help you to explore why things happen. Why do you get angry with your manager when they say to you “Well done?”, why is it that a three line email has tipped you over the edge of your tolerance, and why do you suddenly feel deskilled when you’ve been doing your job for 20 years?

  3. Developing strategies; from understanding can come action. What can you do to find out what’s expected now? Who do you need to speak to and what do you need to say to them? Are there current job specs available and how do they compare with yours (do you even have one)?

    What do you need to ask your colleague to do to show thanks and how can you ask your Manager to stop making you feel like a child – or how do you learn to live with these things? Or is it time to leave (see my other blog post, There’s Always a Choice).

    Once you know what you want to do, your coach is there to support you in implementing the changes you want to make.

Does that sound like a cosy chat to you? There’s structure, purpose and depth to good coaching and good coaches are trained in the skills that they need to support this process. If you want to know more or discuss this view, do get in touch! You’ll find me on LinkedIn or drop me an email.